But that’s not the problem

How 1,000C car park inferno vaporised the FLOOR: Apocalyptic images show gutted multi-storey with no sprinklers where all 1,400 vehicles were reduced to ashes by heat that could melt aluminium

Melting aluminium isn’t really the problem. It’s when the aluminium catches fire that you really want to worry.

As we found out in the Falklands…..

42 comments on “But that’s not the problem

  1. This is going to be a wonderful late Christmas present for Liverpool’s entitlement classes – yes of course my BMW was in there, and it had all my Christmas presents in it, iPhones, big screen TV, designer watches the works. About £50k worth I’d say…….cash’ll do nicely.

  2. “They lost their Black Land Rover Discovery Sport bought new at the beginning of November for £52,000. The car, which they bought in cash after saving for four years, was parked on the second floor of the Echo Arena carpark.
    Ms Simpson said two iPads, two iPad minis, four pairs of Beats headphones and a £115 pair of Rayban sunglasses and £80 Christmas money were in the car.”

    Not sure how they can be so stupid as to waste this much on a depreciating asset. Still, I’m sure they have the receipts and evidence for the insurance claim.

  3. Where is International Rescue when you need them?

    Seriously –how did something like this fire get started? One car goes up and involves others etc but the entire concrete building burning? A fire might spread say down one row of cars but the rows seem mostly far enough apart to serve as a firebreak of some kind.

  4. Given that this would be a fire involving flammable liquids – fuel, lubricants, molten plastic – water sprinkler system’d be quite an effective way of spreading it. Need foam.

  5. I’m expecting a star studded concert to be announced for all those who lost their life savings in the tradedy.

  6. Rickie,

    If you have spent your life’s savings on a depreciating asset they are already lost…

  7. As we did not find out in the Falklands.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Sheffield_(D80)
    “The sinking of Sheffield is sometimes blamed on a superstructure made wholly or partially from aluminium, the melting point and ignition temperature of which are significantly lower than those of steel. However, this is incorrect as Sheffield’s superstructure was made entirely of steel. The confusion is related to the US and British Navies abandoning aluminium after several fires in the 1970s involving both the USS Belknap and HMS Amazon, respectively, and also other ships that had aluminium superstructures. The sinking of the Type 21 frigates Antelope and Ardent, both of which had aluminium superstructures, probably also had an effect on this belief, though these cases are again incorrect and the presence of aluminium had nothing to do with their loss.”

  8. Having seen (more than?) my share of burning cars – the opportunity to prevent the spread is a very limited one time wise. The amount of water required once two or three cars are burning would likely exceed many local water supplies…. If there are high value assets to be protected a foam deluge is generally the very expensive and complicated response – effectively multiplying the effect of the water. Aircraft are worth the effort – cars….. not so much.

    Given the amount of plastic panels on modern cars I’d suspect that car fires have become more destructive if not more common in the last 25 years… Where car parks are not standalone i.e. integrated into shopping malls and the like a fire suppression system seems like a prudent move.

    Multi story car parks have an obvious inbuilt fire draft but even out in the open the domino effect is always a factor.

  9. Fire brigade would love sprinklers everywhere – gives them chance to finish off their second job before having to turn up to the fire.

  10. Once the fuel etc is alight it’s going to stand a chance of triggering a thermite reaction – thermite being in essence iron rust and aluminium powder – which is seriously hot. Hot enough to burn holes through a concrete floor.

  11. Solid Steve 2,

    Aluminium was used for superstructures for some 1960s designs (the UK Type 21s, many US warships) as a means to reduce topweight (because we were moving from heavy steam turbines and shell magazines low in the ship, to having big radars and missile launchers high in the ship).

    The main problem was galvanic corrosion at the interface, and some cracking issues; also, in a really severe fire, aluminium softens before steel does. This isn’t as bad as “the aluminium burns” but the effect can be seen in the aftermath of the USS Belknap fire, at An overhead amidships view of the damaged superstructure of the guided-missile cruiser USS Belknap (CG 26) – the thin aluminium skin has softened enough to fall off the framing, but the framing itself has survived. (Steel would have stayed put better, though not completely)

    However, that only happens once the structure’s heated to 650° Celsius or so; by which point the structure, and anything in it, is unlikely to care much. (It does complicate the repair effort, as we found with one of the 21s that suffered a fire in build)

    There was a post-Falklands backlash, largely based on poor information (the widespread, persistent myth that HMS Sheffield’s “aluminum superstructure” had “burned to the waterline”) that made the use of aluminium unpopular – the US Congress were demanding that the new Burke-class destroyers be all-steel to avoid the ‘fire hazard’ – but it remains a viable option. (Offhand I think at least one of the US Littoral Combat Ships have aluminium upperworks)

  12. The other relevant Falklands reference is the amazement of marine architects that the MV Atlantic Conveyor was able to float at all, given the tonnage of supplies that turned out to have been piled aboard her in the rush to assemble the Task Force; for a while afterwards, every missing item, G1093 discrepancy and shortfall in inventory could be met with a “Oh, they needed that in a hurry for the Conveyor, sir, we never did get the paperwork back”…

    Viktor Suvorov told a similar story in “The Liberators”, where a Russian patrol accidentally set fire to a motorcycle during the invasion of Czechoslovakia; their sergeant was willing to sign it off as having been done by locals with a Molotov… oh, by the way, he’d lent the rider his prismatic compass. The lieutenant signed off on it… but he’d left his binoculars and map case in the panniers.

    Needless to say, by the time this report reached Moscow, this motorcycle had become an experimental field-expedient war wagon loaded with weapons, supplies, night-vision gear, et cetera… which was, unfortunately, destroyed in a battle with counter-revolutionary elements…

  13. I’m far more perturbed about the two fires at (respectively) London Zoo and now Woburn Safari Park that killed captive animals than I am about replaceable fripperies.

  14. “JuliaM

    I’m far more perturbed about the two fires at (respectively) London Zoo and now Woburn Safari Park that killed captive animals than I am about replaceable fripperies.”

    I thought I heard the radio announcer saying that 13 half-assed monkeys had burnt to death only a week after the death of 4 merekats and an aardvark.

    Even when I realized I’d miss-heard, it still sounds like the first line of a Two Ronnies joke.

  15. It was to stop issuing polyester uniforms to the matelots that was the real lesson of the Falklands.

    Oh that and not rebooting your destroyer’s computers when an Exocet is on its way.

  16. After sprinklers have been installed and parking prices raised to cover the cost those same journalists will then write stories about “rip off Britain’s high parking fees”.

  17. Your old car isn’t worth much but you stash it in the garage then tell the insurance that it was in the car park and that xxx was in it, here is the receipts. And hey all those expensive items you purchased in December were all in it.

    All proof required is presented.

    More of a problem for those trying to say a car they don’t actually own was there. DVLA would be checked as for ownership and much harder to get a fake car that way.
    Invoices are much easier.

    Shop receipts even with the item on it but no name for the buyer…. so can use mates receipts too.

  18. AndrewC – thanks for the link. The say that aluminium doesn’t burn because if it did it would not be possible to recycle it because it would burn rather than melting. That’s not strictly true as for example steel certainly burns under the right circumstances (oxygen cutting) and it is perfectly possible to recycle it. However the right circumstances do involve an abundance of industrial quality pure oxygen, which I can imagine would be lacking in a multi-story carpark in Liverpool.

  19. @Martin – the biggest issue for fraudsters is whether the insurance companies are going to be thorough or not. Ie checking claims against any VINs that still exist (and indeed against visual indentification of the burnt out shell). It should be possible for an automotive expert to determine the manufacturer and possibly model in the majority of cases. If nothing else just the type of vehicle – a small hatchback won’t look like a luxury SUV even after a 1400 degree fire.

    If the insurers have any sense (and there will be dozens if not a hundred different ones) they’ll form a consortium, get one company to examine all the burnt out cars and document as much about each as possible, then check all claims against that database. So when the 40th Range Rover Sport gets claimed but there were only 30 identified you’ll know something is amiss somewhere.

    If on the other hand they just bulldoze the lot into a pile of scrap metal, then the fraudsters will have a field day, and ultimately the rest of us will end up paying via higher premiums.

    I have a horrible feeling they’ll do the latter, and just pass on all the costs of all the frauds they can’t be arsed to catch out to their other customers.

  20. A chap I know runs a garage and is a meticulous repair and maintenance man. He bought his wife a second hand Range Rover: lovely beast, petrol engined. (Yes, yes, so was the car.)

    She drove round to the garage one day, parked, and popped her head into the office. At which point her car burst into flames and burnt out.

    It’s fragile, life.

  21. “aluminum doesn’t burn”: don’t I remember burning some in the chem lab at school after scraping off the protective oxide layer on the surface? Or is my lousy memory playing tricks on me?

  22. Uni Pittsburgh: “Aluminum (Al) … is used both as a commercially pure metal and as an alloy. In finely divided powder or dust form, aluminum and its alloys are combustible in air and present a serious combustion explosion hazard.”

  23. Incidentally, if there were some electric cars there, don’t they have lithium batteries? If so, the sprinklers that, apparently some fire officer thinks would have helped solve the problem, would have led to an interesting build-up of hydrogen.

  24. How do insurance claims like this work? If my car catches fire in the street and takes the neighbors car with it, I’d expect that both parties to be claiming on my insurance. Multiply x 1400,and that’s a fairly serious claim before considering whatever’s got to be done to demolish and replace the building.
    However, iirc my car insurance policy has an upper cap on what they will pay out for one incident – possibly £5 million.
    Say the average car in there was worth only £5k, that’s a £7 million claim just for the cars alone, so who takes the hit for the amount not covered by the insurer of the car which started it?

  25. Sprinklers are now the media’s latest shiny toy. Anything can be solved by a few sprinklers.

    As the U.S. and Japanese navies discovered rather early in WWII, the application of water alone on a fire fueled by aviation gasoline (roughly equivalent to today’s car gasoline, at least in octane rating) will not extinguish said fire.

  26. @theProle, January 2, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Owner claims via their insurance company who, after validating claim, decide if third party to blame. if yes, ins co bills third party.

    I imagine scallys imaginary LR will not have been insured.

  27. There’s a car insurance ‘clearing house’ called the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB – no AFAIK Will Smith doesn’t work there), who deal with claims arising from uninsured drivers.

  28. Aluminium does burn as far as I remember. The problem is that it rapidly acquires a coat of oxide that protects it from further rapid oxidising. You know, burning.

    At least that is what people at the Jet Propulsion Lab seem to think. As most solid fuelled rockets are fuelled by a mixture of powdered aluminium, fertilizer (well, OK, a near relative) and a synthetic rubber binder.

    Modern castable composite solid rocket motors were invented by the American aerospace engineer Jack Parsons at Caltech in 1942 when he replaced double base propellant with roofing asphalt and potassium perchlorate. This made possible slow-burning rocket motors of adequate size and with sufficient shelf-life for jet-assisted take off applications. Charles Bartley, employed at JPL (Caltech), substituted curable synthetic rubber for the gooey asphalt, creating a flexible but geometrically stable load-bearing propellant grain that bonded securely to the motor casing. This made possible much larger solid rocket motors. Atlantic Research Corporation significantly boosted composite propellant Isp in 1954 by increasing the amount of powdered aluminium in the propellant to as much as 20%

  29. stephen – “As we did not find out in the Falklands.”

    It is amazing how often people on the front line discover a problem only for the long and expensive inquiry held a long way from anyone shooting discovers that it is not the Brass that is at fault, nor the designers, nor the bureaucrats, but usually some poor Squaddie. The prime example being the way that everyone blamed the soldiers for the Sherman being inclined to burn. Not the petrol engine of course but the fact that soldiers left handy shells lying around. The same way, I suppose, that airlines prefer blaming dead pilots to live Executives or Boeing.

    But I agree. We did not learn that in the Falklands. We did not learn much. But are our newer and even more expensive ships built with aluminium?

  30. “Not the petrol engine of course”: the diesel-engined ones were lousy tanks too, just not as lousy.

  31. @SMFS
    “We did not learn much. But are our newer and even more expensive ships built with aluminium?”

    Type 45s are not

    In fact they are built more like WW2 vintage warships, lots of steel, blast doors, resilience etc. They are far more survivable than T42s/T22s of the 70s/80s

    AFAIK a lot of T45 building practices went into the cariiers too

  32. Most people who lost care seem to be visitors to the city and many were attending a horse show, so not many locals involved but don’t let that get in the way of the outdated crap jokes.

  33. @Thud

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5233217/Liverpool-car-park-inferno-cost-insurers-20MILLION.html

    …Mother-of-two Leanne Simpson, 33, from Anglesey, attended the show with her partner David Henretty, 44, and his two children.

    They lost their Black Land Rover Discovery Sport bought new at the beginning of November for £52,000. The car, which they bought in cash after saving for four years, was parked on the second floor of the Echo Arena carpark.

    Ms Simpson said two iPads, two iPad minis, four pairs of Beats headphones and a £115 pair of Rayban sunglasses and £80 Christmas money were in the car….

    Do I believe her? [ponder for <1 sec] , No

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